Press Release | August 19, 2011

Conservation Groups Denounce Approval of Coal Mine Permit

The Alabama Environmental Management Commission (EMC) today unanimously voted to approve a permit issued for the Shepherd Bend coal mine, a 1,773-acre strip mine to be located less than 1,000 feet from Birmingham’s primary drinking water intake. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), representing Black Warrior Riverkeeper, had challenged the permit, issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), as being unprotective of water quality in the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River. In upholding the permit today, the EMC disregarded evidence from the Riverkeeper and from the Birmingham Water Works Board and ignored instructions from the judge who was assigned to hear this case.

“We are disappointed that the commission charged with protecting Alabama’s water resources has chosen to rubber-stamp a faulty permit in violation of the Clean Water Act,” said SELC senior attorney Gil Rogers. He added that SELC will be considering potential avenues for appeal. “Once again, ADEM is putting the interests of big coal mines ahead of the water needs of the citizens of Birmingham and clean water in the Mulberry Fork,” said Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s staff Riverkeeper.

“Not only are we considering avenues for appeal, but we will also continue imploring the University of Alabama not to lease or sell their significant land and mineral rights at Shepherd Bend to the mining company,” said Charles Scribner, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s executive director. “Without UA’s land and minerals, mining across the river from our drinking water intake may not be economically feasible.”

Black Warrior Riverkeeper ( is a citizen-based nonprofit environmental advocacy organization whose mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. A member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper was the Alabama Environmental Council’s 2007 Conservation Organization of the Year and the American Canoe Association’s 2008 Green Paddle Award winner. Nelson Brooke, Riverkeeper, won the Alabama Rivers Alliance’s 2010 River Hero Award. American Rivers included the Black Warrior on its 2011 list of “Most Endangered Rivers.” For more information contact: Nelson Brooke, (205) 458-0095.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Gil Rogers

Director, Georgia Office

Phone: 404-521-9900